Sunday, January 21, 2007

Afrique, je te plumerai

1993, Cameroon/France/Germany, directed by Jean-Marie Teno

After several films that addressed very specific problems in Cameroonian society (such as the availability of clean water), Jean-Marie Teno tackles a much broader canvas here, that of the post-colonial legacy - or, more accurately, the view that independence has simply brought a new form of subjugation for the population, with a new cast of characters in power. Teno uses a wide variety of visual materials, including interviews, archival materials (particularly deeply paternalistic colonial-era newsreels), broadly didactic sequences and even the occasional staged scene to assemble a multi-layered picture of the colonial legacy in his country. His film also functions as an explicit effort to restore key historical figures and achievements (particularly leaders of the anti-colonial union movement) to their correct place in the discourse, while giving a sense of contemporary forms of resistance to the state and all that implies.

Originally conceived as an examination of publishing in Cameroon, Teno widened his focus during the course of filming, and although his critique of both the colonists and those who inherited their mantle is powerful, the film does bear some of the hallmarks of a draft, particularly in its slightly awkward structure, which focuses on books and publishing until an abrupt turn towards darker material at the halfway point. This is especially distracting on first viewing the film, which grows in power with a second look.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States